Set sail to Coupeville on tall ships

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Friday, August 6, 2010 8:21pm
  • Life

The echo of the cannons. The clanging of the rigging. The snap of the topsails.

When the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain square off this week in the waters off Coupeville, the guns will be on deck ready for battle.

The two square-rigged ships will exchange cannon fire as they cross broadside in Penn Cove.

No, Whidbey Island’s coastal waters are not a modern day Trafalgar. Washington state’s two replica historic ships will be re-enacting 18th century naval skirmishes for the education and delight of those lucky enough to score a ticket aboard.

“It’s fun. It’s by far our most popular experience,” said Joe Follansbee, a spokesman for the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, the home port of the two vessels.

The special three-hour sails aboard either Lady Washington, a brig, or the top ketch Hawaiian Chieftain cost up to $60 per person and feature ship handling, maritime storytelling, and an opportunity to help sail a ship.

Each ship is outfitted with several cannons and swivel guns. Blanks will replace cannon balls, but that won’t quiet the bang of the gunpowder, Follansbee said.

“It’s a very loud boom,” he said.

Weather permitting, the ships will circle around under full sail as the smoke billows from each deck, he said.

If “Battle Sails’’ doesn’t sound like fun, there are options. Weekday evening sails are offered at discounts and landlubbers can tour the boats at the dock in exchange for a donation.

Although Johnny Depp’s character Jack Sparrow once captured the Lady Washington during filming of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, no pirates are expected this time around.

Based in Aberdeen, Lady Washington is Washington state’s ambassador to West Coast maritime communities. The vessel is a replica of one of the first U.S.-flagged ships to visit western North America in 1788. The Hawaiian Chieftain is a replica of an early 19th century trading ship.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447;

How to tour the ships

The Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain are expected to arrive in Coupeville on Wednesday and scheduled to stay through Aug. 15. They’ll tie up at City Dock, Front Street NW and NW Alexander Street in Coupeville.

Three-hour Battle Sails are scheduled for 2 p.m. Aug. 14 and 15. Tickets range from $40 to $60.

At 10 a.m. Aug. 15, Lady Washington will take guests on a three-hour sail, minus the cannon fire. Tickets range from $35 to $55.

Two-hour sails are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Hawaiian Chieftain for $25, or 6 p.m. Friday on the Lady Washington for $35.

The vessels will be open for walk-on tours Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m., and Aug. 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A $3 donation per person is suggested for walk-on tours.

For more information or to purchase tickets, go to or call 800-200-5239.

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